Director Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra’s modern take on the legendary love-story of Mirza and Sahiban is a complete disaster right from the word go. Not only is there an overdose of meaningless visuals, but by oscillating the story between two different eras in a tortuous way he completely fails to capture the true essence of the love-story.
Before I write about the film, here’s an outline of the actual story of Mirza-Sahiban:
The story of Mirza and Sahiban based on a Punjabi folk-lore is not as popular as the love saga of the of Laila-Majnu, Heer-Ranjha and Shiri-Farhad, as Sahiban is said to have betrayed her lover in the end because of which he is killed easily by her brothers. Mirza, an ace archer and an exceptional horseman is sent to stay with his uncle as a child by his mother. Here he becomes close friends with his uncle’s daughter Sahiban and soon the inseparable childhood friends grow into lovers when they become adults. But her brothers and mother are not only against this growing relationship they also ill-treat and beat them up at the slightest opportunity. The uncle turns out to be a spineless man.
Still the lovers manage to meet stealthily whenever possible with the help of one of her friends and an aunt who even have a big hand in their final escape. When her marriage is fixed with another man, Mirza comes on horseback and carries her away on the day of the wedding much to the chagrin of her family members who start following them on horseback. Being a folk-tale with many retellings, the end has two versions- in one version when the family members follow the lovers and when they are about to close-in on them, Sahiban breaks all of Mirza’s arrows so as to prevent him from killing her brothers. In the second version, when they rest for a while under a tree during their journey, unknown to him, Sahibaan hangs his quiver full of arrows on a high branch out of his reach. When the brothers surround them, Mirza is left weaponless and is easily killed.
It is said that Sahiban was against bloodshed and violence and did not want Mirza to be accused of being a killer. She also feels she could win over her brothers with pleading and persuasion which actually doesn’t make sense. Either way, she ends up betraying her lover who dies without understanding the reason for his lover’s act of duplicity…
Coming back to Mirzya…
The director has taken the liberty of lifting this tale from Punjab and unimaginatively setting it in two different eras- one is like a fantasy tale set in Leh-Ladakh and the other is a modern story set in Rajasthan and both are shown simultaneously in parallel tracks…
The film is marked by a convoluted plot, senseless narrative, meaningless ‘song and dance’ sequences by Rajasthani men/women and totally unimpressive action scenes. The direction is shoddy; the music is too loud and songs seem blaring and irksome and in the stillness of the cinema hall Daler Mehndi and Shankar Mahadevan’s vocals erupt after every five minutes like a volcano marring the already dull narrative.
There is no chemistry between the lovers in both the eras which is so essential in any love-story. The characters are not well-defined and the dialogues are delivered without any emotion. The audience involvement with the plight of the lovers is reduced to almost nil and one couldn’t care less whether they meet or die. Not even for a micro second was the ‘Ishq ka junoon’ as stated by Om Puri in the beginning visible in the entire story… With the result, there is literally nothing to hold the audience interest at any given point in the film.
The scenes in Leh-Ladakh are restricted to a senseless contest of shooting down wooden birds ( which emerge from balls of fire) with bow and arrow by our hero along with a group of men who look like foreigners, with the heroine in a weird get-up just standing and being a mute spectator to the whole thing. An action director from Australia is supposed to have been employed for the shooting of the so called ‘spectacular’ action scenes. But if we look at the action scenes contextually vis-à-vis that of the 1947 and 1957 versions of the same film, one is left wondering as to what was the was need for so much spectacle if nothing gets conveyed ultimately? Ultimately in this version, when the lovers rest under a tree during their escape, she breaks his arrows…
The tale in Rajasthan starts with both of them as school kids. Their love for each other at that age itself is so much that the boy actually picks up a gun and shoots the school-teacher in cold blood for having punished his young girlfriend. Can things get any weirder? He then runs away from the remand home thanks to the chief guard’s amazing incompetence and ends up as a stable boy working for a royal family. She grows up to be a rich beauty and coincidentally is happily engaged to the very prince in whose stable Mirza is working . During their conversation, she miraculously finds out that he is the same childhood friend and with the blink of an eyelid her loyalties change. There is turmoil in the family, and even before any love between them can be shown, the ‘lovers’ escape on a motorcycle and then the final confrontation when she removes the bullets from his gun to avoid bloodshed!!!
Honestly, the story never unfolds properly in Mirzya and one wonders what exactly the director set out to convey through his narrative. Or did the film get murdered at the editing table for an editor has the power to make or break a film? Didn’t the director, actors and the unit members sit together and view the final print of this film? Were they so carried away by their own narcissism that they failed to see anything wrong with the film? Didn’t the family members or well-wishers of the actors offer any word of advice?
Coming to the performances, newcomers Harshvardhan Kapoor (Anil Kapoor’s son) and Saiyami Kher (yesteryear actress Usha Kiran’s granddaughter) have a long way to go before they can even begin to call themselves actors!!!They have neither an endearing screen presence nor any acting abilities to their credit. As Harshvardhan sports a thick beard and long hair his facial features remain covered hardly giving the viewer a glimpse of what he actually looks like. The lead pair seems to have been signed only on the basis of their lineage.And this film’s performance hardly matters to them as they have already been signed for new projects. It is up to some other director to bring out their acting skills if they have any …
This film ends up being a colossal waste of time, energy and money…
A word about the two earlier versions of the story made in our industry :
Starring Trilok Kapoor (younger brother of Prithviraj Kapoor) and Noorjehan (this was her last Hindi film before she migrated to Pakistan), the film beautifully captures the essence of the love-story and was a runaway hit and the film’s music became an important factor in contributing towards its success. Though Trilok Kapoor was not bad, it is Noorjehan who leaves an indelible mark with her beauty, excellent acting and superb singing. Their romantic scenes during the stealthy meetings look very cute. The character of the friend who helps is laudable and in this version, Sahiban breaks the arrows. After Mirza dies in her arms, she kills herself.
Starring Shammi Kapoor (ironical that the original actor’s nephew should be chosen to play the same role a decade later!) and Shyama with Madan Puri as one of the brothers, this film also does justice to the love-legend. In fact Shammi Kapoor looks very handsome and Shyama looks stunning. They share a great on-screen chemistry and in keeping with that era, this one also has catchy songs sung by Rafi and Shamshad Begum. Shammi’s scenes on horseback look very authentic and believable and there are plenty of scenes to display his riding skills. In this version, it is the aunt who comes to the rescue and Sahiban hangs the quiver high up towards the end. Here when she runs to defend Mirza the knife thrown at him ends up killing her first. Overpowered by so many men, he also dies immediately.
The story maybe old, but from the looks of it, the values in society held seventy years earlier still seem to be carrying on without any change. Whether it is a folk-tale or real-life, whether it is in a village or a city, today also the daughter has no say in the choice of the man she wants to marry and is like a puppet in the hands of the male members of the family. If she dares to go against their wishes she has to pay the price with her life!
Movies which are said to be a reflection of the society have faithfully projected this male dominance and patriarchal values prevalent in the society for over a century and continue to do so even now… Sad indeed!